Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rumor: Nexus 3 lottery down to HTC, Samsung, and a “really big surprise”

Rumor: Nexus 3 lottery down to HTC, Samsung, and a “really big surprise”

I would love to be in Andy Rubin’s shoes right now.  In May he told us Google was planning a 3rd Nexus device. Now every Android player is knocking his door down trying to get a piece of the action. We likely won’t know the final details on this device for several more months, but the Nexus 3 (aka Nexus Prime, Nexus Plus) has quickly become the most-hyped mystery for Android fanboys. Read on to catch up on the latest rumors shared with us by several Android insiders.

The Rumor

Google is still evaluating a handful of prototypes for their next Nexus device. The devices in testing include:

  • Samsung with dual-core 1.5 GHz OMAP4460
  • HTC with dual-core 1.8 GHz Krait Snapdragon MSM8960
  • A “rather svelte” device from a “really big surprise” featuring an Intel CPU
  • Sony Ericsson with dual-core 1.2 GHz Scorpion Snapdragon MSM8x60
  • LG with dual-core 1.5 GHz OMAP4460
Despite what other rumors have said, Google will be selecting only one device as their lead smartphone platform for Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS).

The Sources

This latest information was compiled from a handful of sources who all wish to remain anonymous. One is a well respected developer who has actually handled several of these prototypes. Another is a trusted industry insider who has always provided reliable info. The third is a new source, who claims to have a relative working at Google.

One Android Insider’s take on the rumor

Last month I sort of poked fun at the Nexus 3 buzz and speculated what might become of the device. I pledged to hold off on the rumors for awhile, but no one else has been advancing the story. And people keep feeding me new info to share with everyone. Multiple sources have informed me that a number of prototypes are floating around, so I’m making this post in hopes that it encourages some brave soul to leak some pictures.
Samsung appears to be in the lead (for now)
All three sources mentioned Samsung is working on a phone with a Texas Instruments 1.5 GHz OMAP4460 processor. The device sounds pretty similar to the one rumored by BGR, but I have not been able to confirm any of the other specs.
“Andy [Rubin] likes Sammy,” one source told me.
Some people have tried to debunk this rumor, saying that Samsung would choose their own Exynos processor over something from Texas Instruments. But Google is the one who chooses the semiconductor partner, and TI had perfect timing with their OMAP4460 part.
However, one source also told me Google is having issues with the OMAP4460, which could open the door for another semiconductor partner (and handset maker).
HTC has a puncher’s chance with Qualcomm’s mighty Krait
I’ve received a lot of conflicting signals over when Qualcomm’s next-generation Snapdragon would actually ship in devices, but the latest info leads me to believe they’re working around the clock to make it happen this year. Two sources told me HTC already has prototype devices featuring the latest Snapdragon with the new Krait core (MSM8960).
Every Android fan should pay attention to the Krait Snapdragon because it is the first mobile system-on-a-chip (SoC) built on a 28nm process. Delivering up to twice the density of previous manufacturing nodes, 28nm technology allows chips to do far more with less power. Qualcomm should be able to deliver industry leading battery performance with Krait, which is the most-requested feature among Android owners.
Krait parts started sampling last month, so it’s no shock that HTC already has access to them. After all, they are Qualcomm’s favored partner.
An internal Qualcomm roadmap leaked last month stated that the first Krait part MSM8960 would debut with speeds around 1.5-1.7 GHz, but our source claims the HTC prototype was clocked at up to 1.8 GHz. Qualcomm’s 45nm MSM8x60 parts have been overclocked up to 1.7 GHz, so it sounds believable that they could squeeze 1.8 GHz out of their 28nm MSM8960. Maybe they decided to bump the clock speed to match TI’s 1.8 GHz OMAP4470 coming in early 2012?
A source told me the devs over at Qualcomm CDMA Technologies (QCT) didn’t have access to Ice Cream Sandwich yet, but they did hear of several internal deadlines related to Krait that made them believe Qualcomm had an aggressive schedule to do the bring-up work for it.
I recently spoke with a member of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon team and asked them about the possibility of becoming the lead platform for ICS. They wouldn’t publicly say it was important to their business strategy, but I got the feeling Qualcomm was a little tired of NVIDIA grabbing the headlines with all the Honeycomb devices. That may be why Krait has been pushed up.
Intel Inside, finally?
Out of all the Nexus rumors I’ve heard, this one is the most interesting. We’ve completely ignored Intel because they have been slow to get their processors into Android smartphones and tablets. I heard Intel was showing off a Honeycomb tablet back at Mobile World Congress in February, but nothing else has leaked since then.
I’m very keen on all the ARM processors coming out in the next six months, but I have absolutely no idea what Intel part is being slated for smartphones. (No really, what’s up next? Medfield?)
Our source claims to have seen an Android prototype smartphone with the Intel part inside and described it as a ”rather svelte” device, but they would not reveal the handset manufacturer. I was only told it would really, really surprise me, so I’m eagerly waiting to see who Intel has partnered with.
Google chose Intel to power the first Google TV units and the first Chrome Books, so we know they have a strong relationship. It wouldn’t be a huge shock if Intel became the lead platform for ICS smartphones, but no one is talking about them right now so I guess that might surprise some in the industry.
Check back in a couple weeks for more info on this Intel-powered Android smartphone.
LG and Sony Ericsson
With all the recent news, I don’t think either of these players has a real chance at becoming the chosen handset maker for the next Nexus. However, it is worth noting that both sent in prototypes to be evaluated by Google.
What happened to the quad-core Tegra 3?
None of the prototype smartphones our sources talked about featured NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 processor. This leads me to believe the smartphone version will not be available by Christmas. We were originally told Tegra 3 tablets would arrive around August and Tegra 3 smartphones would follow by Christmas, but that info was provided in February and things change.
However, one source told me they strongly believe Motorola’s next XOOM tablet will still feature Tegra 3 (as rumored) and become the lead platform for ICS tablets. It sounds a little weird that Google would choose one lead platform for smartphones and another for tablets, but it makes sense if those are the best parts available during the launch window.
Google used a Tegra-powered XOOM tablet to demo ICS at Google IO and NVIDIA’s CEO said they were working closely with Google on ICS. So, we will still assume Tegra 3 tablets will be the first to feature the next version of Android.
Enough with the damn rumors!
I understand a lot of readers get frustrated with rumors and only want to see pictures, but most of the insiders seeing these prototypes are cautious to share pictures. So few people have access to the devices that leaks can be tracked back to them. Google keeps their prototypes under lock and key, and Googlers very rarely leak anything. But I’ve heard of several devices appearing in places other than California, so some pics will eventually come out.
Personally, I’m rooting for the HTC device with the Krait CPU. I love Samsung and the Nexus S is still my daily phone. But I desperately want a smartphone with superior battery life, and Qualcomm is the first to market with a 28nm part, which they claim reduces power consumption by 75%.
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